The St. Mary’s High School girls basketball team completed a season for the ages with an impressive 64-54 victory over Lee High School in the Division 3 state championship game Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester.
It was as superb and as well executed a total team performance as head coach Jeffrey Newhall and assistant coaches John Bozarjian, Mike Jalbert, and Jim Foley could have hoped for in a game of this magnitude. Four St. Mary’s players – seniors Cassi Amenta (16 points), Kirsten Ferrari (16 points) and Tori Faieta (12 points), and freshman sensation Brianna Rudolph (11 points) – hit double figures in the ultimate showdown against the western Massachusetts powerhouse.
The fifth starter, freshman phenom Jennie Muccarione, had two points and displayed her dynamic passing skills with three assists. Mucciarone was one of the stars of the Lady Spartans’ exciting 53-50 win over Cohasset in the state semifinals at the TD Garden, netting seven points, including a three-pointer.
Junior center Ann Marie Idusuyi brought rebounding strength off the bench with six boards and five points while freshman Sharell Sanders had two points to cap off a solid rookie season.
Ferrari, a 5-foot-3-inch captain and point guard, helped seal the title-clinching victory with four free throws. Ferrari was spectacular throughout the Spartans’ post-season march to the title, playing the game with the confidence and poise that championship teams need from their floor leader.
Faieta scored the first basket of the game on a nice feed from Rudolph. The 6-foot-2 inch Stonehill College-bound center provided her usual dominating presence, contributing 14 rebounds, five blocked shots, and six assists to complement her 12 points.
Amenta was the other force in the frontcourt, scoring 16 points while setting the tone with three baskets in the opening quarter.
St. Mary’s led 15-9 after one period and 33-20 at the half after Ferrari drained her first of two three-pointers. Faieta (6) and Amenta (4) combined for 10 points to keep St. Mary’s ahead 45-33 after three periods.
With eight minutes left to decide the state championship, the Spartans put their feet on the accelerator. Rudolph opened with two free throws. Idusuyi, who deserves the sixth player of the year award (and watch out for AMI next season) handed the ball off to a trailing Ferrari who got the roll for a 49-35 edge. Idusuyi netted a basket before Rudolph struck for a two-pointer. Ferrari’s three-pointer extended the lead before hoops by a Amenta and Sanders made it 60-38.
Lee made a late run but Ferrara scored four points from the free throw line to seal the victory.
Gary Wellington, coach of the Wildcats (24-2) whose only losses this season were to St. Mary’s, felt the Spartans’ edge in frontcourt size and Ferrari’s leadership in the backcourt were the difference.
“We weren’t able to contain their big girls [Faieta, Amenta, Idusuyi] and it was a hard to match up with that,” said Wellington. “And [Ferrari] did a great job handling the basketball for them. We started to disrupt her game a little bit and that gave us a little bit of a run to get back into it slightly, but I thought she handled the ball very well for them. She’s the key that makes the big people stay in the paint.”
Jeffrey Newhall, who prepared St. Mary’s well for the perils of March with a challenging regular season schedule, said his team’s ability to exert its inside firepower set the early foundation to victory.
“We knew coming in to this game that we had to get the ball inside and I think we established ourselves inside the whole game,” said Newhall. “Cassi and Tori played very, very well and Kirsten gave us a tremendous balance up at the top. I thought we got a good balance inside and out. And I thought Ann Marie [Iduysuyi] did a great job, too, coming off the bench. ”
From Disney to the DCU, from the Conigiliaro Gymnasium to the Garden, the St. Mary’s High School girls basketball team won 24 games, championships (KSA Classic, Boverini, Catholic Central Large, Spartan Classic, North Sectional) and the biggest title of them all.
Oh, what a year it was.